by Ryan Perry on October 15, 2014 in Cases & PSUs
After having gone 3 years without looking at a SilverStone chassis, we’re back with a look at the company’s latest, the mid-tower Fortress FT05. Can it deliver on the promises of big cooling and big flexibility while retaining as small a footprint as possible? It’s time to man the fort and find out.
While it’s true that all of us here at Techgage have a job to do, we just can’t help ourselves when we see something that really piques our interests. For me it’s chassis, but more specifically smaller chassis with a unique interior layout. It just so happens that the brand new Fortress FT05 from SilverStone fits the bill, but there’s another reason why I’m excited to get my hands on it.
The very first chassis that I reviewed when I started this gig back in 2010 was the Fortress FT03, so when I saw that SilverStone was prepping a new version I jumped at the chance to be one of the first in North America to reveiw one. I’m not going to let SilverStone off easy just because of nostalgia, so let’s get started.
The top to bottom layout with the motherboard rotated 90 degrees returns in the FT05, and is also shared by the latest in SilverStone’s Raven series, the RV05. Where the black or silver aluminum-shelled FT05 differs from its siblings is that it still supports full-sized ATX motherboards, but the footprint isn’t much larger than some micro-ATX chassis at only 22.1cm wide, 48.3cm high, and 42.7cm deep. For those who don’t want to check, that’s pretty small for a mid-tower chassis, so how did SilverStone manage this?
Typical chassis are bulkier due to the somewhat antiquated 5.25″ drive bays, but SilverStone has done away with these opting instead for a single, vertically mounted slim optical drive found at the lower right of the solid front panel. Not only does this keep the front clean and simple, but also redcuces the height and depth, while keeping the width to a minimum. The remainder of the front panel is made up of a reflective accent near the bottom that holds the light up SilverStone name and snowflake logo and doubles as the drive activity LED.
Our review sample came with a windowed side panel, but a solid panel is available in both colours as well. The shiny accent from the front continues around the side and sits just above the open intake area. Rather than four feet, the FT05 sits on more of a stand that wraps under the entire chassis, similar to the FT02. Since everything has been moved to the top panel, the rear is kept very clean with only a large opening to route cables and a vent around the power supply intake area.
Tucked into the bottom intake area is a magnetic dust cover to help keep any foreign bits out of the system. The inside of the stand has also been covered in foam to help trap sound that escapes from the intake area rather than allow it to bounce off of what would otherwise be bare metal.
We’ll head up to the top panel since the right side is completely solid. Here we find a large plastic grill that hides the cables, but also allows warm air to vent up and out of the system. At the very front are the power and reset buttons located on either end of a flip up cover.
Under the cover are the microphone and headphone ports flanked on either end by a USB 3.0 port. Also just to the right of the port cluster are two, three-speed fan control switches to run the included fans at either high, medium, or low speeds.
There’s not a lot to look at with the FT05 flipped upside down other than a rubber pad in each corner to protect whatever surface the chassis might be sitting on and to absorb vibration.
As we remove the panels to take a look at the interior, we’ll do so in a different order than usual, starting with the top grill. This shows off what’s usually found at the rear of a standard chassis such as room for an optional 120mm fan, and the seven expansion slots complete with a screw down cover to ensure that your gear remains your gear. There are two plastic handles that also add some stability to the top grill, but it’s what you may not have seen that’s really cool.
Hidden by the grill and tucked under the top edges of the side panels are the stealthed release latches. Squeezing the latch allows for the panel to be lifted straight up and removed.
Before we get down and dirty, here’s a quick shot of the side panels and more sound absorbing foam that has been applied in order to help trap noise within the system.
The interior layout of the FT05 is anything but typical with the central area used for the rotated motherboard. A large section of the motherboard tray has been left open in order to install the slim optical drive mentioned earlier, and to help with the installation of CPU coolers. With the smaller dimensions of the FT05 come a few restrictions such as a maximum length of 312mm for GPUs and CPU coolers measuring 162mm tall.
Secured to the bottom with rubber dampeners are two 180mm AP181 Air Penetrator fans capable of moving 130 CFM while spinning at 1200 RPM at 34dBA. These can be swapped out in favour of three 120mm or two 140mm fans, which just so happens to be the configurations that the FT05 can handle for some serious water cooling. In the upper rear corner is the power supply area and below that is a removable 2-bay 3.5″ drive cage. Both the rear and front panels have been given the foam treatment as well to further help with sound absorbtion.
Smaller 2.5″ drives can be mounted out of sight on the rear of the motherboard tray thanks to a pair of raised brackets.
For bits and pieces we have the manual, a magnetic dust filter to cover the power supply intake area, and the usual assortment of screws tossed in with a handful of zip ties as well as a small socket to help with the installation of the motherboard standoffs.
Clean lines, an innovative design, and lot of features and flexibility sure makes the FT05 look attractive, but smaller chassis can be tough to build in. Let’s see how the latest Fortress fares.